Virtual Town Hall Held Thurs. On COVID-19

Local officials provided updates on fighting this virus.


Frederick, Md (KM) Preparations were made beginning early this year by Frederick Health Hospital on the possibility of a coronavirus pandemic. That’s according to Tom Kleinhanzl, the President and CEO of the hospital.

He said a command center was set up to deal with this crisis. Also, the number of ICU beds increased from 209 to 304. “Some people may have seen a white tent out in front of our side entrance at the hospital. That came to use from the state. They offered that. It’s a ten-bed step-up unit. We haven’t needed it at all. If we did, we could staff that as well. So that’s an extra space,” he said.

Kleinhanzl also said elective surgeries were canceled, and about 250 employees have been provided with additional training.

But getting enough personal protective equipment has been a problem,  but the hospital is staying ahead of it  because local residents have offered to make  these products for the hospital. . . “We’re blessed with a great community in Frederick. We have had our auxiliary and many other volunteers throughout the community making masks, cloth masks, making face shields. We’re going We’ve produced 500 gowns in the last week because we’re running short on disposable gowns,” he said.

The hospital uses 1600 gowns a day, and 18,000 gloves a day. “So we burn through a lot supplies in a hurry, clearly with COVID patients who require a lot of hands-on attention,” says Kleinhanzl.

When the coronavirus crisis began, Frederick Health Hospital set up a testing center across the street from its facility on West 7th Street. “We’ve tested close  to 3500 people in the community. We had a great deal of logistics to make that happen in short order,” Kleinhanzl says. “That’s been a very necessary way for this community to have access to the testing.”

He also says the hospital uses its own labs to evaluate the tests and reach a conclusion as to whether a patient has COVID-19.

Kleinhanzl says the hospital has treated a number of conoravisus patients, but it’s not been overwhelming number. “We’ve been able to treat about 120 patients in total. That’s the combination of emergency room patients, patients who were admitted and observation patients,” he says.

Many had to go to the ICU at first, but that number has dropped in recent weeks.

Right now, Kleinhanzl says, Frederick Health Hospital is at 60% of capacity, and there’s plenty of ventilators.

Another speaker at the town hall was Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rick Weldon, who said small businesses in the area have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. “For a non-essential business, this has been nothing short of catastrophic, catastrophic,” he said.

To help slow the spread fo the coronavirus, the Governor ordered  all non-essential businesses to close. There’s no indication when they can reopen.

Earlier this year, Weldon says the county was on the verge of explosive economic growth. But the COVID-19 pandemic has put an end to that for now. He says it’s meant 10% of the local workforce is out of a job, and there’s been a cash drop among employers. “As it continues, the damage gets worse every day,” says Weldon. “I can’t put any icing on that cake. It’s been a disaster particularly for those businesses that are non-essential that had to close their doors.”

He says the Chamber has been spending time working with businesses, helping them find federal and state loan and grant programs so they can  stay afloat during these tough economic times.

Despite all this, Weldon says he;s not in favor of businesses immediately reopening during this emergency, hoping to recoup some lost revenue. “First focus on the instructions we’re being given to get us to the end of this,” he says. “In a rush to try to reopen, and in an enthusiasm to try to get back to something approaching normal, we accelerate infection rates in our county. We’re simply going to shut down again.”

The “Frederick Together: Virtual Town Hall” was moderated by Paul Miller, an editor with the Frederick News-Post. Also participating were Frederick Mayor Michael O’Connor, County Executive Jan Gardner and Health Officer Dr. Barbara Brookmyer.



By Kevin McManus